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Rally demands an end to separated immigrant families

Tianna Manon
Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle discusses the importance of keeping families intact.

Some local activists believe the White House’s policies on immigration are not only unfair but inhumane- particularly to families and children. Members of the New York Civil Liberties Union and Rochester Rapid Response Network protested outside of the Federal Building in downtown Rochester Friday.

The protesters said that President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute parents at the border is leading to separation. The children are given to the Office of Refugee Resettlement but the NYCLU says the agency is already overburdened, meaning placements are sometimes delayed.

“It’s very easy to criminalize undocumented migrants,” said Johana Rocha, a member of the Student Coalition for Migrant Workers at SUNY Geneseo. “It’s very easy to dehumanize undocumented migrants. So it’s easy to put aside their rights, put aside their needs, put aside what concerns their specific community.”    

Credit Tianna Manon
Activists say migrants are the backbone of the economy but aren't treated fairly.

Rocha says there is a lot of misinformation around immigration, and even more apathy: “It’s tough to get a lot of people involved in this because a lot of people believe that because these people are here as undocumented migrants that in some way they don’t deserve to be here. They don’t deserve these rights.”

Iman Abid of the Genesee Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union led the rally and says already, Trump’s policies are scaring off would-be migrants.

“People don’t even know if they can enter the country anymore,” she said. “In a lot of situations, people can still enter the country but they’ve made the process so difficult to understand that we’ve seen [the numbers] go down of people entering the United States just within the Trump administration.”

The Department of US Customs and Border Protection says the policy hasn’t had an immediate deterrent effect but this could change as residents of other nations learn about the changes in policy. In April the agency reported close to 51,000 arrests at the border. In March, there were closer to 50,000 arrests, suggesting a small increase. Overall, these are the highest numbers since January 2017. Numbers for May will be released in coming days.

Abid says Trump’s policies are inhumane and need to be changed.  But overall, she says there still needs to be more empathy for the immigrant community.

"I can't even imagine. You're looking for refuge, and you're trying to flee war and persecution and famine," said Abid. "I think it's really important to have that conversation and be as compassionate as you can towards them."